Six teens were shot and wounded on the porch of a house near the intersection of N. Albina and N. Jessup late Friday. The victims were hospitalized and treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Police called the mass shooting, with the largest number of victims this year, "nothing short of an ambush."
"It's pretty amazing that nobody was killed," said Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.
Investigators are seeking two shooters, both reported to be young Black men, who fled the scene on foot. The shots were fired at around 11:20 p.m.
The injured teens are: 13-year-old Earnest Henderson, 16-year-old Deontray Henderson, 17-year-old Damarcus Stuart, 16-year-old Deshawn Crawford, 16-year-old Deaundre Willis and 16-year-old Howard Williams.
The boys had recently left Jefferson High School where they had been at the first football game of the season.
Deontray Henderson, a junior, is a starting defensive end, and linebacker on Jefferson's varsity football team. He was released from the hospital Tuesday, but won't be playing football for some time, since he was shot in the leg and foot. He now has a plate with seven screws in his leg. The pain is worst at night, he said Thursday on his Facebook page.
Another shooting victim, D'Aundre Willis, told The Skanner he was doing well. "They released me out the hospital Saturday afternoon with a lot of meds," he said. "I have off and on pains, but recovering fast."
Investigators and outreach workers believe the shooting is gang-related, part of an increase in youth violence during the last two years.
Yet the victims were not involved with gangs. That's according to Clayborn Collins, Ph.D., CEO of Emmanuel Temple Community Services, who leads one of several community-driven efforts aimed at preventing violence. Others close to the boys have confirmed to other media that the victims have no gang connections.
Collins believes his work with gang leaders helped keep the peace in July. His organization holds a breakfast where gang members agreed to a truce. A fundraiser Sept. 16 at Emmanuel Temple will support that program. But much more needs to be done to prevent more suffering from youth violence.
Policing and outreach does not amount to prevention, Clayborn says.
"What does true prevention look like? How do we create education and employment opportunities? How do we stop the labeling and stigmatizing of young Black men? How do we stop racial profiling? It takes a wholistic approach to prevention. But nobody wants to talk about disparities in education, disparities in employment and the over policing of African American and Latino youth."
Andrae Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor of counseling psychology at Lewis and Clark College, is an expert in youth violence prevention. He too identifies gang violence as a problem with deep roots in our culture.
"When you are disenfranchised, when you are marginalized, you feel invisible and ignored," he said. "There is definitely an economic and marginalization component to this violence."
Add feelings of anger and rage to the perception that nobody cares, and the risk of violence rises.
"They are trying to be seen," Brown says. "Their process is if you don't want to listen to me and you don't want to see me then I'll make you see me. So if I pick up a gun, I'm going to be seen. You have to pay attention to me now, even though it's negative attention."
The Portland Police Gang Task Force works with youth who may already have reached that breaking point, he said.
"We allow them to fail and it's generation after generation," he said. "We have a lot more work to do on the front end with prevention."
Brown points out that this isn't just a problem for Black and Latino youth. In our culture, white men, and women too, can become violent when they feel cast aside and invisible. Our culture makes violence the first option, rather than the last, he says. For example, it is far too easy to get hold of a gun.
"If the young people who act out with guns had to work really hard to get a gun, there would be a whole lot less shooting," he said.
Royal Harris, who works for Casacadia Behavioral Health as clinical liaison with Multnomah County's gang-affiliated youth offenders program also pinpoints teens need to be connected and valued. Gangs offer teens a group of peers who care about them and the knowledge that somebody has your back, he said at a meeting Aug. 11 at Self Enhancement Inc.
"What these kids are seeking is a family, it's a neighborhood, it's community."
To show that adults do care, Portland's African American community has stepped up. This summer more than 200 volunteers came forward to support the "11:45" campaign, organized by a group of ministers. Longtime outreach worker John Canda organized 'Connected' to bring adults together as a visible, caring presence in parks and streets.
Sam Thompson, a former SEI youth worker created the Restore the Village campaign and organized a youth employment fair and barbecues.
The PROPER Festival brought youth organizations and advocates together in North Portland. Slain teen Yashanee Vaughn's family and friends kept the spotlight on the problem of teen violence.
The mentoring agency Big Brothers Big Sisters has gained 85 new mentors through one of these efforts, said Chabre Vickers, director of community relations. But with 2,400 children on the waitlist – the agency serves 3000 currently – Vickers wants more people, especially men, to sign on. All colors and races are welcome.
"The statistics definitely say that having an additional caring adult in their lives helps with tons of things," Vickers said.
Truancy rates go down, educational achievement rises and the risk of drug and alcohol abuse drops.
"Mentored children are 47 percent less likely to get into drugs and alcohol, but when you look at minority boys and girls that jumps up to 60 percent."
Big Brothers Big Sisters is launching the Second Chance program that pairs teens in the juvenile justice system with mentors.
"Teens about to be let out of detention are telling us, 'I need someone to connect to because if I don't have that I'll go back into the same life,'" she says. Vickers is looking for men and women who can be an anchor for those teens.
Her agency's goal is to serve 6,000 children by 2013 – 10 percent of the need. About 60,000 Oregon youth could benefit from a mentor, she says.
Not Enough Resources
Many of those closest to the problem of gang violence, such as outreach workers, former gang members and social workers who deal with children in the juvenile justice system, say more resources need to be targeted to Portland's youth – and their families –if city residents are serious about putting an end to gang violence.
This means more citizens need to become part of the solution by, for example, signing up to mentor children and teens. But it also means a shift in policies and priorities that can't be achieved without intelligent, evidence-based policies and courageous political leadership.
"We are nowhere near having the resources we need to build the systems that can rescue children," says Rob Ingram, director of the Portland's Office of Youth Violence Prevention. Should resources be directed towards very young children to prevent future problems? Or should they target the teens who already have guns in their waistbands?
"We have the resources to do one or the other but not enough to do both."
Ingram says that in many ways the system is working better than ever. Outreach workers do reach "at-risk" youth. Churches, nonprofits and community volunteers have come together to support kids and families. But the Portland-metro area has thousands of families in poverty, a dismal graduation rate and few opportunities for meaningful work. In other words, our environment produces children at risk for hopelessness, addiction, crime and violence.
Jobs Jobs Jobs
In Oregon, a recent report by the consulting group ECONorthwest for the job agency WorkSystems looked at "Disconnected Youth in Multnomah and Washington counties."
It found that 26,355 young people aged 16 to 24, are low-income, living on less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Of those, 8,149 youth had no work and weren't in school. And more than one in 10 young people in their 20s are not high school graduates.
The report uses 2008 figures, almost certainly far lower than current figures.
At the same time, government safety net supports are being cut. Federal and state child care assistance has been cut and food and cash aid to poor families is on the chopping block.
The city and the county created 1600 summer jobs and internships for young people. And 107 students who attend the award winning SEI program, that graduates virtually all of the teens it serves, are offered work and an income during the summer.
Yet, the need is greater than ever. National surveys show fewer high schoolers have access to jobs than in previous years and the Bureau of Labor Statistics found 18.6 million young people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed between April and July 2011, a rise of 1.7 million.
"On this Labor Day the number one most pressing issue is jobs, jobs and jobs," Ingram said. We're talking 9 percent and 11 percent unemployment, but that's not including any of the young people entering the job market.
"You can fix the gang problem, but if you don't have a good education system, job opportunities and a way to buy a home or get a piece of that American Dream, then you will still have some of the same problems."
Poverty Grows as Wealth Concentrates in Few Hands
Last week, the Oregon Center for Public Policy issued a report detailing how middle class families are struggling in the recession. Rising healthcare costs, stagnant wages, job losses and home foreclosures are pushing more people into poverty. That's no surprise to food bank workers who are seeing longer lines for handouts. And it's no surprise to 211 crisis phone operators, who are fielding crisis calls every day. Slate magazine's Timothy Noah explained in a series that wealth is concentrated at the top. He also showed that few of us realize how sharp those contrasts are.
On the ground, outreach workers say children and teens are at the sharp end of the recession.
"There are a whole lot of kids out here with absolutely nothing to do, especially the higher risk kids," says Tonya Dickens, executive director of the gang outreach nonprofit Brother's and Sister's Keepers. Teens approach her looking for work and opportunities all the time, she says. "There's no jobs for adults and no chance of one for young people. It cost money to play or do stuff. There's not a lot of free stuff out there."
Dickens paints a picture of girls and boys becoming adult men and women, in an environment where they have very little access to money, job opportunities or hope for a different, better future. In communities of color, hit far harder by the recession, young people often can't rely on help from family networks, because adults too are struggling.
Teens end up living a precarious existence, couch surfing and wondering, "How long will they be able to stay in that place? Dickens said. "We work with a lot of youth who are out of school, over 18, have no job, no training –many of them have aged out of systems such as the foster care system.
"We have them get online and make a resume, but a lot of the time I don't have the resources (to help) without going within – using my own personal resources and calling people who I know personally."
Brothers and Sisters Keepers usually have school supplies and backpacks on hand to help low-income kids arrive at school ready to learn. This year those donations never materialized.
Finger Pointing But No Political Will for Real Change
Advocates say that to prevent more kids from picking up guns, more dollars and attention must be directed to struggling children, teens and families. Yet there is no sign that the political will exists to do so.
Anger, disgust, and generalized finger pointing at the Black community, dominate the public discussion on the comments stream of Oregon Live, for example. Emboldened by anonymity, posters there make statements such as: "When it's gang members, there are no humans involved;" and "who cares, let 'em shoot each other!!" and "unless we make a concerted effort to eliminate the gang members nothing will stop the violence. you have to eliminate them once and for all. ALL OF THEM not just some of them, every single one. they have to be removed completely from our city."
Rob Ingram says the responsibility can't be so easily shucked off.
"These are our children and they are exactly what we have created," he says. "So if we are so angry and disgusted, then we need to do something."
For those who want to understand how gang violence was created, he recommends the new documentary "The Interruptors" as well as the now-classic 'Bloods and Crips: Made in America.'
"The saying was that if you were to cut open those gang members you'd find Made in America inside them," he said. "Well, if you were to open those shooters (from Friday), you'd most likely find 'Made in Portland.'"
Ingram says we need to create a lot more jobs, including "felony friendly' jobs for those trying to exit the gang life. Contrary to the common assumptions, he says, many former gang members understand they can't get rich quickly.
"I know some guys who used to be major hustlers and now are ok with earning $10, $12, $17 an hour because they have that sense of belonging and contributing. They have pride and a sense of competency.
But how can you tell someone who used to have $1000 a day that they won't be able to make ANY money. When life is telling them aspire, dream, create."
Policies that use taxes to fund jobs and social safety nets won't be created without public support, Ingram says.
"The only way that will happen is if politicians and major players will stand up and advocate for it."
PHOTOS from top:
The corner of N. Albina and N. Jessup in Portland, where 6 teens were wounded by two unknown shooters. They are lucky to be alive, police said.
Young women attended the funeral of 14-year-old Yashanee Vaughn
Emmanuel Community Services is holding a fundraiser 8p.m. Sept. 16 at 1033 N. Sumner Street. Funds will go to its gang violence prevention program
Dr. Andrae Brown with recent graduate LaRonn Arnold at the Black Parent Intiative conference
High school sports engage many teens but the most 'at-risk' teens, those who are not passing classes, are not allowed to participate
John Canda started Connected to reach out to youth in parks and public places
Mayor Adams and Chabre Vickers attended the 11:45 meeting where volunteers organized to help youth
Volunteers with the Salvation Army and Feed the Children handed out 1600 food boxes at the Lloyd Center July 27
The Disconnected Youth report shows thousands of young people in the Portland-metro area are poorly equipped to survive
Teens made resumes and got food handlers cards at a job fair organized byRestor the Village founder Sam Thompson
In our culture shoes and clothes are badges of identity. At the Lloyd Center some teens shop while others can only look
Marty Trent coaches a teen basketball team and is trying to offer academic support to youth. Trent is just one of many Black coaches who volunteer time and care to youth
Children wait in line to play on a bouncy castle, at a barbecue organized by Sam Thompson
Rob Ingram heads the City's office of Youth Violence Prevention
Still from the documentary, 'Bloods and Crips:Made in America'
Still from the new documentary about gang outreach 'The Interruptors'
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